APRIL 1ST, 2008 | Harkin for Senate
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and 55 of his Senate colleagues today sent a bipartisan letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations seeking $489.6 million in this year’s supplemental appropriations bill for the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne/JAG) program. The additional funding would restore Byrne/JAG funding for fiscal year 2008 to $660 million – including $6 million for Iowa – the same level that the Senate originally provided for in the Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations bill that passed the Senate last year.
While the Senate provided $660 million for Byrne/JAG grants, following a veto threat, the Omnibus Appropriations bill that ultimately passed funded the programs at only $170 million. This funding level represents a more than two-thirds drop from the 2007 level, and is down from nearly $900 million in 2002.
“Sheriffs and police officers from communities large and small have told me that Byrne Grants are essential to fighting the war on drugs,” said Senator Harkin. “In Iowa, the cut will lead to layoffs and the elimination of 15 of our 21 drug task forces. We cannot continue to slash the funding for such a vital program that has proven successful in keeping drugs and criminals off the street and making our neighborhoods safer.”
“As long as drug trafficking organizations continue to smuggle large amounts of meth and other illegal drugs into our state, multi-jurisdictional drug task forces are required to help keep our communities safe. Without these task forces, it would be open season for drug dealers. If something isn’t done to restore or offset the reduction in federal funding, the safety of Iowans will suffer,” said Gary Kendell, Director, Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy. “We are thankful for Senator Harkin’s leadership, and the support of Iowa’s entire congressional delegation, on this critical issue.”
The Byrne Grant Program, named after a police officer killed by a violent drug gang twenty years ago, is the only source of federal funding for multi-jurisdictional efforts to prevent and fight crime. The program funds drug task forces that have been vital in reducing methamphetamine labs around the country. In 2007, the grant provided the means for the Iowa Drug Task Force to seize more than 3,300 pounds of drugs. Byrne also helps pay for police, technology and crime prevention programs. The grant has also resulted in major innovations in crime control, including drug courts, gang prevention strategies and prisoner reentry programs.